Individuation process vs. hiding within collectivistic identity-based movements and groups

My thinking seems to oscillate daily. Sometimes I get irate over racist extremists — like black supremacists and their push for “communalism” (“one mind, one choice” to quote Latausha Nedd, a.k.a. Eye Empress Sekhmet) and outright rejection of individualism. As was the case yesterday. Then the next night rolls around and I realize just how much they’re fighting an uphill battle, not against white people or society but again Nature unto itself when it comes to trying to staunch and reverse humanity’s gravitation toward individuation. It’s where humans have been heading for the last few thousands of years and it won’t cease just because some ideologies wish for it to. In fact, those ideologies are destined to fail and cause grave destruction on account of going against the natural flow in trying to force human groups backward into outdated modes of existence. Won’t work. Hasn’t thus far. The 20th century demonstrated how devastating attempting to go down that path will be, and the 21st century will prove it again if enough feel so inclined to keep trying to force a square peg through a round hole.

It’s foolish to think we can return to the past. Not possible. Yet it remains popular for people yearn for and romanticize past epochs, believing life to have been simpler then and people to have been kinder (at least within one’s own tribe). We infuse these dreams of the past with magical properties, and then take the view that we have fallen from the grace they represented. That’s the interesting thing about dreams and imaginings — we can concoct them any way we wish. Their adherence to factual reality is irrelevant to us. We gaze fondly upon an imagined past most likely because we’re so uncomfortable with the uncertainty of the present and the future. And that too is a natural inclination.

When I refer to us humans as a bunch of modern-day Luddites, I’m only half joking. We really are, and it’s understandable in a sense. And because of this we’re keen on seeking out someone or something to blame: God, other races and groups and nations, modernity itself, other political camps, influential philosophies that we take issue with, etc. This is all part of the reckoning process that comes with living, especially in such drastically changing times. Lifestyles of a century ago are so foreign to us that we cannot relate, and because of this we get to thinking we’ve been robbed of something precious. Well, we have lost what once was, but, in turn, we’ve also gained what now is and what perhaps may someday be. Everything in life involves a trade-off, whether we like it or not. And Life doesn’t consult with us on whether we’re cool with that — it simply rolls on and we either learn to roll with it or get dragged along. Right or wrong, that does appear to be a fact of life.

On hearing that I’m sure some folks will dig in their heels all the more and proclaim someone like me to be jaded, overly cynical, even nihilistic perhaps. They may think I’ve given up hope, which is not the case. I’m just coming to terms little by little with what’s in my control and what isn’t. The past most definitely isn’t. Though you and I can impact the present and possibly the future as well. So that’s where I am being called to turn my attention, having long been one of the most stubborn Luddites out here who also liked to entertain dreams of what may have come before and harbored resentment over it being wrested from us. I too have been angry over so many things and cast blame in various directions, and still do at times. But, little by little, I’m starting to see this world a bit differently along with my role within it.

The individuation process is very necessary. Consider it the next big leap in the evolutionary progress of humankind. Another step in our progression away from pure animality and primitive sapienhood. Of course the process is painful and trying — when has living and growing not involved suffering? Suffering actually appears to be fundamentally necessary here, prompting expansion of one’s mind and empathetic reflections to enhance relations with other people and the world at-large. Don’t take that in the lovey-dovey sense, as if I think we’re all going to come together and sing kumbaya anytime soon. No, I’m referring to alterations to how we view and live in the world and communicate with one another, which are all forged through trial and error and many hardships and pain and sorrow that can lead us toward a greater consciousness and appreciation for Love, connections, critical inquiry, and grasping what’s of real value.

But this path I speak of is a lonesome valley. Can’t be any other way. People are trying (unconsciously or sub-consciously) to seek refuge in groups and movements and identity politics in an effort to avoid this path and all that goes with it. You can run but you can’t hide. There is no past to retreat to. It’s no more than a fiction in our minds at this point so far as retreating is concerned. Yet people keep trying to go that route, perhaps more and more nowadays, probably because they’re growing all the more terrified with life and where it might be headed. As is understandable, to an extent.

“There’s nothing to fear but fear itself” is an empty platitude that is often repeated but rarely heeded. Why? Because we’re all scared. Very difficult not to be. Uncertainty terrifies us, as does suffering. As does unfolding our own individual potential — that too scares us terribly for some reason, perhaps more than anything else. Maybe because it can’t help but be such an intensely solo (thereby lonely) project, not to mention fraught with worries over being judged by others for whatever fruits we attempt to produce (whether we fail or succeed). Fear of personal failure, especially while observed by others, is huge. And then there’s this nasty requirement that we put in so much effort and learn to turn away from unnecessary distractions (plenty of which we find entertaining). Beyond that, I wonder if it also has something to do with appearing naked in front of our Lord/creator (metaphorically speaking). The group, the hivemind, is a place of refuge not unlike a forest where we appear to be just one tree among many. To stand alone is to stand judged, and that’s a mightily uncomfortable proposition for anyone to contend with. Doesn’t sound like something most of us would willingly sign up for, and many of us therefore don’t.

But life has a way of forcing our hands. One such way, so it appears, is hiding within a group or movement until it grows strong enough that it becomes a monster in its own right that devours a good many of its own as well as those it stands in opposition to. Then all those individuals hidden out therein wind up with a bunch of blood on their own hands (assuming they survive and aren’t one of the ones targeted by the beast of their own making), which they then wind up judged for. Possibly for generations to come. They may cry out that they themselves, individually, were innocent and did not envision nor endorse what the beast eventually became, but others will mock them as cowards and pretenders in response, and rightly so. You built up that aggregated beast through your own individual efforts and contributions — that was a choice. Perhaps it was the easiest choice at the time, but it remained a choice nonetheless. To have otherwise faced scorn and ridicule, rendered alienated or been effectively deserted or maybe even targeted for attack and possibly killed — STILL it was a choice. Because the decision is difficult and the consequences potentially dire does not negate the fact that a choice was made.

So people can wind up tainted by the sins of that which they help create and build up and attempt to hide within, or we can risk being tainted by the sins of our own direct doing without a refuge to obscure us and our activities. Many of us prefer the former since if we do indeed prove to be wrong, the blame and shame winds up distributed among all involved, lessening our own sense of culpability (and/or public witness of it) via camouflage. Seems like a good plan, until it isn’t. Great consequences can be meted out to those deemed responsible for horrific wrongdoing, plenty of which are psychological in nature. And those who truly weren’t comfortable with the direction their organization was heading but who remained involved just the same wind up tarred and feathered along with the rest in the aftermath. No pity shown for them either because they chose to go that route. Here we can reflect on how societies across the world today view the German Nazis and the Russian Communists and the Chinese Maoists of yesteryear — still unforgiven (and unforgivable) decades later. And on and on it goes…

But one doesn’t hide within one’s race unless one makes a conscious identity of it. Because others attribute unwarranted characteristics to you based on your race doesn’t make you automatically guilty. There is a difference between what one is and can’t change and what one chooses to partake in (like an identity-based movement).

Either way, we will potentially face scorn and hardship and blame, no matter who we are. Attempting to hide within a human-made forest won’t change that, nor will standing alone on one’s own merit. BUT at least when one goes his or her own way and grapples with life in an authentic fashion, we’re hiding less from ourselves and others and thereby are capable of learning and clearly observing what will and will not work (assuming one’s goal is to be fruitful, and by that I mean honestly productive, e.g. life-affirming in orientation). Obscuring such truths only prolongs the process and the accompanying pain inherent in it. So taking the easy way today might very well lead to much greater long-term suffering for oneself and/or our descendants (those we claim to care so much about).

No group/movement is capable of instilling these truths into the minds of its members. Each individual has to reckon with and come to terms with what is and what is not on his or her own. Nobody else on earth can do it for us. If one opts to tune out and refuses to explore and examine information for oneself, then potential growth will be stunted for that particular individual, with no one else possessing the power to change that fact. If we choose the less studious route and allow a group or movement to indoctrinate us with talking points in place of real information that we have fact-checked and quibbled over, then we’ve allowed ourselves to be misled. That is one’s own responsibility since we are our own gatekeepers as adults. And if that group/movement we’ve chosen affiliation with goes into beast mode and creates havoc, we deserve our fair portion of the blame for having provided it fuel to grow and become what it has.

At bottom, there’s no way to escape personal responsibility. Try as we might to fight it and run from it, we’ll keep being returned to face this human truth. Again and again and again. Until we learn it and strive to act in accordance, it will continue being Ground Hog Day on this planet — repeating the same mistakes over and over with painful consequences that provide an opportunity for reflection, introspection and personal growth. It is ultimately our choice on what we each decide to do. If people prefer to create hell on earth by refusing to come to grips with this, then hell we shall have.

There are rules that are beyond our making but that must be lived in accordance with if we’re to ever transcend our current conundrums. I’d like to tell you that I’m sorry for this, but actually I’m not. It’s just life. Is what it is, and that’s okay. I happen to find it very interesting and awe-inspiring, albeit unnerving and very tough to come to terms with each step of the way. My prayer for others is that they too come to embrace Life’s wonder and strangeness without letting too much fear and pressure from other humans get in the way of exploring the possibilities. Take care.

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